Tuesday, 10 August 2010 15:49

Steam Engine cranks up on-demand high performance computing


Frontline Systems' Steam Engine offers cloud-based high performance computing systems.

Steam Engine, a new division of systems integrator FrontlineSystems, provides high performance computing (HPC) infrastructure for as little as one month at a time.

The service is particularly aimed at the visual effects, geo-science, mining, biomedical and financial industries.

"These businesses are exemplified by extreme peaks and troughs in data and infrastructure demand, which makes operating and managing in-house date centre facilities a financially unsound proposition," said Steam's chief commercial officer Stefan Gillard.

"For short term production, simulation or testing requirements, Steam Engine makes it possible to completely negate the capital expenditure involved, while slashing the operating expenditure by up to 40% in comparison to running the same capacity in-house."

The Steam Engine infrastructure as a service offering is based on hardware from companies including HP, Hitachi Data Systems, and Arista Networks [revised information received 12/8/10]. The company currently has 1000 servers in operation, with another 3000 planned for deployment by early 2011.

The equipment is housed at the Harbour MSP data centre in Sydney, another operation within the Frontline Systems group.

What does an early adopter say about the service, and what is Steam Engine planning for the future? Please read on.

An early adopter of Steam Engine's HPC service is Australian visual effects company Rising Sun Pictures. Owner and visual effects supervisor Tony Clark said "As Rising Sun has been awarded larger and more complex packages of work, the demand has grown for our need to access short-term high-performance computing power. Being able to rely on a model like Steam Engine's on-demand infrastructure is key to maintaining profitable relationships with our clients in the competitive climate of high end feature film visual effects." 

Steam Engine plans to rapidly expand its services to the point where it can offer an complete outsourced IT package including management and industry-specific helpdesk and engineering support staff.

"By offering IT from the desktop all the way up to the data centre level, we will provide customers with cost-effective access to HPC infrastructure without being locked into long-term hosting contracts," said Michael Chanter, Steam Engine's chief technology officer.

"Meanwhile, new businesses will benefit from the flexibility and agility that will enable them to completely set up their IT within weeks, not months," he added.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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